A tough start, tough tire set, intermittent rain and bumpy finish were no match for Conor Daly as he bounced back to finish fifth Saturday in the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Road Course. Speedway.
It was Daly’s first top five finish in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in nearly five years, dating back to his fifth place finish at World Wide Technology Raceway in 2017 driving for AJ Foyt Racing. It was the fourth top-five result of his INDYCAR career.
The finish is his best in any circuit configuration at IMS, which makes it even more special for the Hoosier rider.
“I think I only finished sixth here if I remember correctly, but that’s great,” Daly said. “I love this place. I really want a trophy from here. But it’s a great way to start the month. I mean, we wanted to bounce back here. That’s the goal. We knew we had a car fast. We did some great qualifying. We performed all weekend, that’s exactly what we wanted.
Daly started in front, qualifying fourth in the #20 Chevrolet BitNile fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing. It was his best NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying effort since qualifying sixth in this race last year and eighth for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at the IMS road course last August.
But things quickly went south for Daly after the green flag was waved. The race started on a wet track in light rain. The start was declared wet, so Daly and the rest of the field had to start on Firestone rain tyres. But on lap 3 Daly pulled over to switch to alternate Firestone (red) tires.
The used tires weren’t in keeping with the car and Daly’s driving style, and he immediately fell into the pack. At one point Daly was running 23rd of 27 cars.
“I thought it was just another day at the office, but I never give up on this streak, and I tell the team that,” Daly said, referring to his bad luck seemingly often. “I said, ‘It doesn’t matter if the day goes badly, but I will always fight until the end. “”
Daly said that once he lost that set of tires to another set of alternate tires, his car was “perfect”. And that started his comeback to the front of the pack.
Intermittent rain throughout the day tested the NTT INDYCAR SERIES peloton. Daly said he was proud of the performance of himself and his fellow drivers as they followed the ever-changing circuit.
But the various wet stages on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile circuit and the various tire strategies that came with it allowed Daly to climb through the pack.
He re-entered the top 10 for the first time on lap 48 of the 75-lap race. On lap 62, Daly pitted his car for another set of rain tires as the humidity increased. It turned out to be a very beneficial decision.
Daly moved all the way up to fourth in the closing minutes of the GMR Grand Prix, but Marcus Ericsson managed to squeeze his #8 Ganassi Racing Honda Chocolate Chip Huski past Daly before the final warning was issued. to end the race.
“I really don’t think I’ve been through anything like that,” Daly said. “It was really strange. I mean, it was raining, then it was sunny, then it was raining again, and then you couldn’t see anything. So it was really, really interesting today.
While it wasn’t the best day of his career for Daly – his second-place finish in 2016 at Detroit holds that honor – it was his best result at Racing Capital of the World. Previously his best on the IMS road course was sixth and his best on the IMS oval is 10th.
It was a monumental moment for Daly, who grew up near Noblesville, Indiana, resides in Indianapolis, drives for Ed Carpenter of Indianapolis and is the son-in-law of IMS President J. Douglas Boles. And the strong day fueled his drive to maintain momentum as the series shifts into Indianapolis 500 mode next week.
Last year, Daly led a 40-lap race in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge before Graham Rahal’s loose tire hit the nose of his car and affected the rest of his day.
This year, Daly seeks redemption.
“I mean, I’m confident in every race, but those are the two most important to me,” Daly said. “God, I love them. We know we have a great car in Indy, so we’re going to come out strong next week and be ready for it.
The Indianapolis 500’s opening day of practice is Tuesday, May 17, with practice for the veteran ovals opening the day from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET. The rookie orientation program and veteran refreshers are scheduled from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and the Indianapolis 500 open practice is from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Tickets for Indy 500 practices are available on IMS.com, and all track action can be seen live on Peacock Premium.